Before + After: Backyard Garden


The Craiglist wrought iron benches have found their spot in the yard! I thought it was time to update you on our Phoenix backyard and how it has progressed over the years to remind myself when I’m impatiently waiting for things to grow, and encourage you that your space can get there too!

I’ve also added a few tips from what I’ve learned dealing with a particular spot, and more plans for that space. Hope you enjoy the backyard and garden update!

Shade and grass

Before – you can see the three bright patches in the grass where I added fertilizer stakes in the ground – hee hee. I can always tell when it’s a summer or winter shot just by looking at the color of my grass. Winter rye is so vibrant.

Today, we still have the sitting area – added two more chairs, this is a view a little closer cutting the chairs out of my sight, but added two trees, Ash on the left and Chinese elm on the right. Our grapefruit tree won’t last forever, in fact she might be gone in five years or less so we’re preparing for it and added trees to hopefully help with shade.

We are planning to add another large tree almost right in front of her to prepare when she’s gone but I can’t bare to do that just yet because I love seeing her from my patio windows. Fruit trees are typically girls to me, I don’t know why.  Maybe because they bare fruit – ha, I just made that up.


A few other angles of the middle of the yard:



  • Big yard? No time to mow but have company coming? Leave tall patches like a field in some areas like I did – it’s kind of cute!
  • Live in your space for at least a year and see what areas need shade, the way the sun moves, then look into the plants you want.  We love the winter sun and so we picked Chinese Elm and Ash so the leaves would drop so we could have our yard sunny and bright during the good weather.

Future plans:

  • Probably add two more trees or at least one directly in front of the grapefruit tree – already very sizable.  This might cost us around $1200 but it will be worth it than waiting 10 years for it to grow to the size of the grapefruit tree to give us shade.

Jasmine Vine Espalier Wall

Two years ago we started with tiny 1 gallon buckets of common jasmine – because buying 13 any larger wasn’t in my ideal budget.

A little over two years later – the vines are out of control.  They filled in after a year and a half and now it’s about maintaining them.

jasmine wall vines on brick or concrete wall - how to // garden


  • I had our handyman do 12″ diamonds and used plastic anchors and screw eyes at the points.  He then used a strong floral wire in green to string them through the screw eyes.
  • The vines stay green year-round and have a growth spurt in the spring.
  • I remove lots of vines – just because it’s growing doesn’t mean you need to keep it – cut that sucker!
  • After two seasons of buying 12 annuals every year to plant between the jasmine vines, I decided to buy perennials. I picked the Spanish lavender that does well in hotter climates. It’s not as punchy of a color so it will be a bit muted against the back wall, but I think it’s a good compromise so I don’t have to spend a whole afternoon replanting.
  • You can have the vines fill up the entire wall but if you do that, you probably don’t need much structure with your espalier pattern like I did.

Future plans:

  • This wall is done! We would like to replace the wood fence you see to the left that is shared with our neighbor to be concrete walls and match what we have.  This would have to be later when our neighbor would agree and want it – we have shared vines and it is very expensive to do a concrete wall!  Once I get a new concrete wall there then I’d have a new mural to tackle!
  • In a year you should see the red oleander pop over the other side – we planted one for every post, there are 8 I believe – and I hope they will reach over 5 feet in addition to the top of the wall!

The Bun Run / The Cutting Garden

This was the weirdest space.  This was actually the ideal area for a garden but it’s too far from the patio door that I knew I would never go outside and grab herbs in this spot.  It would be fantastic for a summer bed with the shade it gets and that’s still a possibility since we rarely use it as a bun run since London died. It wouldn’t do well as a garden in the winter because it’d be a freezing area (not much sun).

Here is the bun run now, would also be a great chicken coop area but I don’t think I can do chickens. We planted the ash tree there for shade but unfortunately it is blocking a great view of our bun run now. Inside, Benjamin mowed a strip straight through, so the grass is tall on both sides when we let Liberty out to run around.  I’ve planted wildflowers and sunflower seeds and I just want to flower bomb it but it’s taking quite a long time to see anything yet.



  • If you want a trellis to disappear, paint it the same color as the wall it will be learning against. I removed the old door frame after a year.
  • If your garden area lacks color – look at those spots and see what colors you can add – orange (Mexican honeysuckle), pink, yellow (roses?) do you want more greenery to cover a longer span of a wall or fence, you can add a climbing vine like cat’s claw (it is invasive) or pink jasmine (different than what is on my wall). Here is a guide to different jasmine varieties.
  • Boxwood topiary will grow to the height I want once I’m dead.  I don’t know what species I bought but I’m calling it the never aging plant – so if you want a low maintenance slow growing plant, there you go – you can see two lined up by the bun run gate.
  • If you have dead space area, figure out what you can turn it into – watch how much sun it gets. It can be your summer garden, your cutting garden (florals), or sandbox area for the kids.

Future Plans:

  • Turning this into a cutting garden, I tossed shaded seed in one half and the other half another flower mixture since it gets a lot of sun. We’ll see what happens!

Raised Garden Beds

When I first moved in there wasn’t the white stucco with red brick trim walls – we added that a few months after we got married, and the back gate. Here’s a bad IG photo with a bad filter.


I know I should have taken pictures before I moved in but it wasn’t cute at all and so i just wanted to forget about it.  I wish I had just for these purposes to compare and show you how we’ve turned this place around.

The aprium tree was removed because it was dying – the apple tree will probably be on its way out in a few years too – fruit trees don’t last forever.  We added garden beds and started small.

We soon joined the beds together because I wanted something deeper for my root veggies and needed more space.

How about this for just back in February when I planted my starters?

This photo you can see we were in the middle of adding another raised bed!


Here’s an iPhone pic I posted on IG a week ago after we got the final bed set up:



  • Decide where you want your garden area – is it by a door close by? Does it get enough light and also shade?
  • The best way to go about starting a raised bed is to first add your irrigation drip first in the spot, use a shovel and turn over the dirt (you can flip it over so the grass is on the bottom), lay down layers of cardboard and then the good mulch and soil.
  • Post about how we created our garden beds here.

Future plans:

  • Pea gravel the area – removing the grass because of the mowing and winter rye seeding difficulty
  • Add outdoor string lights to illuminate the darker areas of the backyard – like the garden.

Liberty the dwarf hotot

What’s a backyard update without this gal? This little one was so cute when we got her – lots of attitude if a bunny could have one.

Fast forward to today, her butt got bigger. *wink* She’s still cute and she loves kale and oats.


  • Bunnies serve no farm purpose unless you eat them. I’m totally kidding I won’t eat her even if I could, I’d rather have a steak.
  • They poop and eat a lot. Rabbits are not for children or young kids – more for older teens and adults as rabbits are fragile, timid and a prey animal.
  • Indoors they can chew a lot – London didn’t (RIP), Liberty did, horribly.
  • If you are allergic to cats, you’ll probably be allergic to rabbits – this I had to find out the hard way.

Future plans:

  • No more rabbits after she passes.
  • If we get a pet, we’re looking at a yorkie like Paris, but not anytime soon.

If you have any questions about our backyard or how I made decisions feel free to leave a comment.  If you live in Phoenix, I highly suggest following Noelle Johnson on her blog She’s our horticulturist and she comes to check on our trees and plants and helps us pick out great things that can survive in the desert. She’s worth every penny!

Diana Elizabeth is an author, photographer, and obsessive antique shopper. You can typically find her in the garden wrist deep in dirt, at a local estate sale or planning her next epic party. She continues to blog weekly.


  • krystal

    Beautiful oasis yard!
    RIP London
    I’d be allergic to cuties like Liberty then…rats :(
    I mean no rats as pets, though I have no problem with them :) I’ll just stick to little dogs like pekapoos and shih tzus. Not sure if I mentioned to you before, but last fall, we adopted a sweetheart shih tzu! Perfect pet for us and perfect with the now 3 year old and 3 1/2 month old! The only thing is that I’m surrounded by boys! But I wouldn’t trade it – adore all my fellas!

    • Diana Elizabeth

      Hi Krystal! How’s the house dynamic now? I love all the little characters living in it and how God has really formed your little family ;)

  • Mailinh

    Love your garden and Liberty’s appearance! :)

    P.S. My Lasik day is June 12th. Woot, woot!


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